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3rd August 2022

B&M Landed With £1M Fine For Health And Safety Breaches

warehouse full of stock

What’s Happened?

Discount high street retailer B&M has recently been fined £1 Million after a contractor suffered serious injuries following an electric shock at their Liverpool Warehouse.

The electrical contractor was understood to have set on fire during an explosion while using a metal spanner to repair an electrical fault.

This case highlights the importance of ensuring appropriate coordination and cooperation when appointing contractors to undertake works on your site. Anyone engaging contractors has health and safety responsibilities, both for the contractors and anyone else that could be affected by their activities.

How did this Happen?

The electrical contractor had been attempting to connect a generator to B&M’s Low Voltage supply in order to allow B&M to operate some of its core site functions whilst high voltage maintenance was being undertaken. The electrician was working on-site repairing an electrical fault when the tool he was using came into contact with a live busbar (metallic strip) linked to the power distribution and caused an electrical explosion.

The court was told that severe injuries were sustained and as a result, the injured contractor required skin grafts and surgery to save one of his hands after a ‘Catherine wheel of fire spiralled through the air, while his body ‘blew up to four times its normal size.’

He was placed in an induced coma for two weeks and was unable to work for five months.

HSE Investigation

An investigation from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) ensued. Inspectors found that B&M had failed to appoint a suitably competent person to plan and carry out the work to connect temporary generators to their distribution board at the premises.

This work was complex and involved several contractors and required coordination of different working parties with specific time-limited requirements. HSE found that there was insufficient planning between parties beforehand including who was in charge of each site, coordination of work and exchange of relevant documentation.

Work methods of the electrical contractors were said by HSE to have fallen well below the required standards. Electrical work was allowed to commence without proper planning, and the power supply to the circuit was not isolated prior to the incident – with live working being allowed to take place. This meant that the power supply could be switched on or off at any point, putting workers at a clearly foreseeable risk of electric shock.

In Court

B&M Retail Ltd attended Liverpool Crown Court and pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The business was fined £1 million plus £4,978 in costs.

The Electrical contractor (Daker Ltd) also attended court where they also admitted breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, however the business was only fined a paltry £100 due to the company now being dormant and only had that amount of money in the bank.

Speaking after the court case the HSE inspector involved in the case said, ‘this could have been avoided if the companies involved had taken the time to appropriately plan and coordinate tasks to ensure the circuit was dead, eliminating the risk of electrocution to workers. Working with electricity is a high-risk activity and safety must be a priority.’

If you have any queries regarding the appointment and management of contractors on-site, development and issues of permits to work, or any other related H&S queries then don’t hesitate to contact our advice line today on 0300 3035228.

Appoint Lighthouse As Your Health & Safety Competent Person

The competent person role does not have to be fulfilled internally within every company. You can, therefore, outsource the appointment to a contractor or consultancy with the necessary qualifications and experience.

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